23/04/2024

Harmanpreet Kaur (left) and Sophie Molineux (right) will be central to the Melbourne Renegades’ fortunes in WBBL|08. (Photo: Melbourne Renegades / Design: Will Cuckson)

Coming off the back of a second place finish on the table last season, the Melbourne Renegades will be hoping to once again challenge for silverware in WBBL|08. 

Having now secured the services of some dynamic international players combined with an impressive contingent of home-grown talent, there is cause for plenty of optimism ahead of a new campaign.

Last season

Led by captain Sophie Molineux, the Melbourne Renegades won eight games during WBBL|07. This represented a significant improvement from their previous campaign, which yielded only the four victories.

The Renegades enjoyed a four-game winning streak in the early stages of WBBL|07. However, Simon Helmot’s side appeared to lose momentum late in the tournament, losing its last two matches heading into finals. This culminated in a crushing nine-wicket defeat at the hands of the Adelaide Strikers in the Challenger Final.

Nevertheless, it was a highly successful season for the Renegades, filled with some outstanding individual and team performances.

Indian recruit Harmanpreet Kaur was central to the side’s finals qualification. Blessed with incredible power and stroke-making, Kaur was the leading run-scorer for the Renegades, amassing 406 runs at an average of 58.00. This included three half-centuries.

Meanwhile, the 33-year-old provided just as much impact with her right-arm off-spin, collecting 15 wickets at an average of 20.86. Kaur’s efforts with ball in hand saw her also finish the season as the Renegades’ leading wicket-taker. 

She was well supported by fellow Indian teammate Jemimah Rodrigues. Rodrigues accumulated 333 runs at the top of the order, averaging 27.75 with the bat. 

Molineux and Ellie Falconer also forged strong individual campaigns, both picking up 10 wickets across the tournament. 

Squad

Sarah Coyte, Josie Dooley, Ellie Falconer, Ella Hayward, Shabnim Ismail (RSA), Harmanpreet Kaur (India), Erica Kershaw, Carly Leeson, Hayley Matthews (WI), Sophie Molineux, Rhiann O’Donnell, Georgia Prestwidge, Tayla Vlaeminck, Georgia Wareham, Courtney Webb. 

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Big Inclusion

The signing of big-hitting West Indies captain Hayley Matthews is sure to put a smile on the faces of Renegades fans. After previously spending five WBBL seasons with the Hobart Hurricanes, Matthews will wear now red in WBBL|08.

The 24-year-old offers a wealth of experience to the Renegades batting line-up, having made 136 international appearances. Widely regarded as one of the most destructive T20 batters, Matthews will likely play a key role in helping the Renegades get off to a flying start at the top of the order. 

It would also be negligent not to highlight Matthews’ capabilities with the ball. Across 64 T20I matches, she has picked up 60 wickets, utilising her right-arm off-spin to great effect. 

If Matthews quickly finds her feet in WBBL|08, cricket fans should expect plenty of fireworks. 

Other notable inclusions to the Renegades squad include pace-bowling trio Shabnim IsmailSarah Coyte and Georgia Prestwidge

Who’s missing?

The Renegades have lost the services of top-order batter Jemimah Rodrigues, with the talented 22-year-old making the switch to cross-town rivals the Melbourne Stars. 

English international Eve Jones will also not wear Renegades colours in WBBL|07. Jones only missed the one game for the Renegades last season, scoring 236 runs for the campaign in addition to her wicket-keeping duties.

Meanwhile, the experienced Jess Duffin will not feature for the Renegades this season as she prioritises her AFLW commitments with Hawthorn. 

These three batters combined for 729 runs in WBBL|07. Excluding extras, this represents 44 percent of the total runs scored by the Renegades last season. 

In light of these departures, Simon Helmot and his coaching group will be looking for others in the squad to fill the void. 

On the bowling front, new signing Tayla Vlaeminck’s continued recovery from a navicular stress fracture will see her sit on the sidelines for the entirety of WBBL|08. 

Similarly, leg-spinner Georgia Wareham is highly doubtful to be fit in time for the upcoming campaign. Wareham has not featured at any level of cricket since sustaining an ACL injury last summer. 

Wildcard Player

Courtney Webb shapes as an integral member of the Renegades’ pursuit for their maiden WBBL title. 

The dynamic top-order batter had a rather subdued WBBL|07 campaign with the bat, averaging 14.40 across 10 innings. However, Webb was particularly influential with the ball, collecting nine wickets at an average of 20.11.

Recent form suggests that Webb is set to light up the tournament this summer. The 22-year-old was the leading run-scorer during the 2021-22 WNCL season, accumulating 367 runs at an average of 45.87. This included four half centuries.

Webb’s outstanding individual efforts were recognised in her being named as South Australia’s WNCL player of the year for 2021-22. 

The Renegades will be hoping that Webb is able to transfer her WNCL success into the WBBL format, especially given the losses of Rodrigues, Jones and Duffin in the batting department. 

A productive individual campaign from the Tasmanian could go a long way to seeing the Renegades seriously challenge for silverware in WBBL|08. 

Rookie to Watch

Talented young off-spinner Ella Hayward is slowly emerging as one of Australia’s brightest future prospects. 

Despite featuring regularly for the Renegades over the past two seasons, Hayward is still just 19 years old, with plenty of untapped potential yet to be fully showcased. 

Hayward was handed significant responsibility with the ball last season, bowling 35 overs for the campaign, the third most of any Renegades player. This saw her collect five wickets at an impressive economy rate of 6.68. 

Notably, the right-arm off-spinner was often employed during the powerplay, restricting opposition batters to great effect. 

She is also more than capable with the bat, having amassed 345 runs at an average of 34.50 for Melbourne Cricket Club during the 2021/22 Women’s Premier Firsts campaign.

With another off-season under her belt, Hayward looks primed to reach new heights in WBBL|08. A reflection of her talent, the Renegades were quick to secure Hayward’s signature for a further three years. 

She spoke exclusively to The Inner Sanctum earlier this year.

Squad Strengths

The addition of Hayley Matthews to the squad significantly bolsters the Renegades’ top-order firepower. In particular, the combination of Matthews and Harmanpreet Kaur could prove to be lethal for opposition bowling units. 

Together the pair have scored a whopping 3,735 runs at T20 international level. Both players occupying the crease at the same time looms as a sight to behold for cricket fans. 

Local products Sophie Molineux and Courtney Webb round out an imposing top-order.

The Renegades seemed to lack depth within their fast-bowling ranks last season. However, the inclusions of Sarah Coyte, Shabnim Ismail and Georgia Prestwidge ahead of WBBL|08 quickly put these concerns to bed.

All three players boast an ample amount of WBBL experience and offer the Renegades a plethora of pace options this time around. 

WBBL|07 also saw the Renegades frequently use its spin bowlers, a tactic which often yielded terrific results. This season looms as no exception, particularly given the numerous options at Molineux’s disposal.

A highly skilled left-arm off-spinner herself, Molineux will also be able to call upon the right-arm variety of Hayward, Kaur, and Matthews. 

If conditions suit, the Renegades will have no hesitation in turning to their spin brigade. 

Squad Weaknesses

Despite boasting what shapes to be a potent top-order, question marks surround whether there is enough firepower amongst the Renegades’ middle-order. 

Having lost the experience of Eve Jones and Jess Duffin, the Renegades will be relying more on the likes of Josie Dooley and Carly Leeson to guide the side through the middle-late overs. 

In WBBL|07, Dooley averaged 15.71 with a high score of 37. Meanwhile, barring an impressive knock of 41 runs against the Melbourne Stars, Leeson scored 16 runs across six innings.

Whether the pair are able to sufficiently fill the void of departing players remains to be seen.

All-rounder Rhiann O’Donnell is another who potentially may occupy a spot in the middle-order throughout the season. O’Donnell only batted on three occasions during WBBL|07 but may be increasingly called upon this coming season. 

Josie Dooley (left) will likely shoulder more responsibility with the bat this season following the departure of Jess Duffin (right). (Photo: Melbourne Renegades)

Predicted XI

  1. Sophie Molineux (c)
  2. Hayley Matthews
  3. Courtney Webb
  4. Harmanpreet Kaur
  5. Josie Dooley (wk)
  6. Carly Leeson
  7. Ellie Falconer
  8. Sarah Coyte
  9. Georgia Prestwidge
  10. Ella Hayward
  11. Shabnim Ismail

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